With the New Year comes the promise of new things, new resolutions, and aspirations of grand adventures. Inevitably, a marathon makes its way onto a majority of those indomitable lists. If a marathon is on your list of resolutions this year, why not pack your bags (and your running shoes) and head to Italy to grace the streets of Rome or Florence with your sweat and tears? At least you know your pre-race carb-loading meal of pasta will be authentic and your post-race reward will be a multitude of gelato flavors. Can’t decide between spumoni and tiramisu? No problem. After running 26.2 miles, you won’t have to guilt-trip yourself into only choosing one. In fact, go ahead and order the entire dessert menu. Twice. Now all you have to decide on is which marathon to run. Here are some of the best Italy has to offer.
While visiting Rome, walking for miles is inevitable (and that’s just in the Vatican museum) so why not just go ahead and make a marathon out of it. Held in March, the Maratona di Roma is the perfect combination of sport and tourism. Starting at the Coliseum, you’ll run past Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, and many more of Rome’s innumerable historic sites before crossing the finish line back at the Coliseum. Though the course is reasonably flat with only a few hills, this is probably not the run to set out for a personal record as you’ll likely spend most of your race looking around in awe or cursing the picturesque, but uneven and narrow cobblestone roads that dominate at least half of the race course. If you’re not feeling quite up to the 42-kilometer challenge, sign up for the 4-kilometer Stracittadina Fun Run. Setting off 15 minutes after the marathon start, it shares the same starting line at the Coliseum and finishes outside of Domus Aurea – the ruins of emperor Nero’s Golden House.
Held in late November, the Maratona di Firenze is second only to the Rome City Marathon in popularity and size. With more than 4,500 participants it ranks consistently on the top 20 list of international marathons. The timing of the race makes it the perfect race to combine a holiday trip to Italy with a little athletic endeavor. You can scope out Christmas (or Hanukkah) gifts while sprinting (or jogging) past the city’s major monuments. The race starts off at Piazzale Michelangiolo, leaving the breathtaking Ponte Vecchio behind, you’ll run within the historical town centre, across the Cascine Monument Park, and through the Florentine districts. Other than the first few kilometers, which are slightly downhill, the route is entirely flat and runs over tarmac roads, a feature marathoners who have had to contend with cobblestone and other uneven running surfaces will appreciate.
A relatively new race, the Milano City Marathon was first held in 2000 and is a great place to reward your efforts with some world class shopping. Growing steadily in popularity, this year’s race saw more than 10,000 runners participate in the marathon and relay events. Traditionally held in April, the Milan Marathon is a relatively flat route that starts at the edge of the city before heading toward the historic city center and circling some of the city’s most historic landmarks including the Duomo and the Medieval Castello Sforzesco, which is where the race finishes.
This is a race that shouldn’t be missed. From the surrounding countryside to the bridge of boats constructed specially for the race, you are guaranteed to see a side of Venice that is truly unique. The Casino di Venezia Marathon (the race is sponsored by the Casino di Venezia) is typically held in October and is one of Italy’s most popular races. The first 20 kilometers of the course run through the surrounding countryside along a river before looping through San Guiliano Park and then heading across the Libertà Bridge and into Venice. The last few kilometers of the race are the highlight. After crossing 14 bridges (one of which crosses the Canal Grande and is made of boats), you’ll run through St. Mark’s Square and towards Riva dei Sette Martiri, where you’ll cross the finish line with a panoramic view of the lagoon.
Coast to Coast Marathon
If you’re looking to get out of the big city and take on a few more hills, then sign up for the Coast to Coast Marathon on the Amalfi Coast. A relatively new race, it started in 2009 and usually takes place mid-December. The race starts in Sorrento and heads inland for a bit before returning to the coast and making its way through Positano and Amalfi before finishing in Maiori. The course has exceptional views of the sea and some pretty burly hills. If you’re looking for a flat course, this is not it, but the extra exertion is worth getting to experience the natural charm of Italy’s beautiful coastline.